How to Prepare for International Travel

28 May 2015

Traveling internationally is so exciting, but it can also be a little overwhelming to prepare! Here is a list of things we always do before we leave home.


We register with our embassy.
For U.S. travelers, visit this site to register with the United States embassy. This helps to keep track of your whereabouts in the event of an emergency, and the embassy will send you important news and updates about any travel advisories for American citizens while abroad. You're also required to submit an emergency contact that the embassy can notify in case anything goes awry. It's helpful for piece of mind! 

We make copies of our passports and other important documents. 
I carry a laminated copy of my passport while traveling so that I can leave the real deal tucked in my money belt or somewhere safe. This is a precaution in case my purse is ever lost or stolen. It also helps to send a copy of these documents to someone you trust back home and upload them to cloud-based storage or email them to yourself. My mom and Caileigh each have a copy of my passport handy in the event of an emergency, and I always keep a photo of it on my phone. 

We double and triple check our passport's expiration date.
One of my friends arrived at the airport for a business trip to Toronto only to be denied exit because his passport had expired! Despite this being so hilarious to me that I could hardly contain myself, it was also an important reminder. Plus, some countries require your passport to be valid as far as 90 days beyond your planned date of entry, so it's better to be safe than sorry. 

We know the location of the closest embassy.
I always bring a journal with me while traveling, and the address to the nearest U.S. Embassy is always written on the first page. If I ever did lose my passport or if there was a travel advisory or natural disaster, this is the first place I would head. 

We research the entrance and exit policies for the countries we're visiting. 
Are there any entry or exit taxes you'll need to pay? Do you need to apply for a visa, and how far in advance? Are there any restrictions regarding entry after having previously visited another country? Being aware of these requirements can help alleviate some potential headaches at customs.

We research any required vaccines or suggested medications.
Making an appointment with your doctor can help you plan ahead and make sure your regular immunizations are up-to-date. You'll also want to consult them or the Center for Disease Control (CDC) for any recommended vaccinations for travel. For example, you may be required to get the Yellow Fever vaccination when traveling to certain parts of Africa and South America. I also learned about the possibility of contracting Dengue Fever in Costa Rica due to mosquito bites, so while I wasn't required to receive any immunizations, I made sure to pack the appropriate kind of bug repellent. 

We check our insurance policies for coverage abroad
Before my recent trip to Costa Rica, I was alarmed to discover that my health insurance will only cover me for non-emergencies. Make sure you understand the limitations of your insurance plan and seek out additional coverage as needed.

We write down important phone numbers and addresses.
That travel journal is helpful for more than just jotting down recollections of our experiences. We also use it to record the addresses and phone numbers of hotels and hostels we'll be staying at, just in case!

We research the best way to make an international or local phone call.
Sometimes you're in a bind and just need to call someone to bail you out. If we have wifi, we use FaceTime Audio or Skype to get in touch. But I always like to make sure I have at least $10 of Skype To Go credit so I can make a call without it in the event of an emergency. It helps to check whether Skype To Go supports the country you're visiting, but it's awesome because your credit never expires!


We notify our banks of our travel plans.
There is nothing more terrifying than being broke in a foreign land when your credit cards are declined. Of course, your bank may do this in the interest of protecting your security, but it's still unsettling. Notifying your bank in advance may prevent these kinds of snafus.

We know the exchange rate and whether credit cards are widely accepted.
We like to use xe.com to research the exchange rate of the local currency of wherever we're traveling so we know how much we'll be spending. I also prefer to use my Chase Sapphire or Southwest credit cards as much as possible to rack up more points, but to do this, it's important to know whether credit cards or cash is more prevalently used.

How do you prepare for international travel? Is there anything we missed?

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